Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: GCIS
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: GCIS

Covid-19 highlights need for universal health coverage, says Mkhize

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Apr 7, 2021

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Cape Town: The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for universal health coverage and the urgent need for Africa to develop, manufacture and distribute its own vaccines and biotechnology, says Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

He was speaking during an online webinar to commemorate World Health Day, with various African health leaders including Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa.

The country’s theme for World Health Day for 2021 is “Towards Fairer and Healthier South Africa".

Mkhize said the country commemorated health at a trying time for almost every country in the world, irrespective of their social, political or economic conditions.

“The universal health coverage agenda is critical for our context, as further highlighted by the current pandemic. The implementation of National Health Insurance is seen as a critical intervention that will assist in restructuring the core components of the health system,” he said.

One of the greatest lessons during the pandemic, said Mkhize, was that vaccine nationalism has highlighted the critical urgency for Africa to develop, manufacture and distribute its own biotechnology.

“Inevitably, the consequent slower roll out of vaccines in lower income countries will negatively impact on economic prosperity and development in those countries,” he said.

Moeti commended South Africa’s response to the pandemic, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mkhize and all the officials and experts involved had shown leadership and had a unique and action-oriented effort.

“The pandemic has shown that governments must increase investment in public health, including funding for access to Covid-19 vaccines for all people and maintaining essential health services while responding to the pandemic,” she said.

Mkhize said the public sector served 84% while the private sector, primarily through medical schemes, served the remaining 16%.

“This disparity is further worsened by the disproportionate distribution of key health professionals, such as general practitioners, specialists, dentists and audiologists, the majority of whom are in private practice and serve mainly individuals and households from higher income groups, despite the need for their services being greatest among lower income and vulnerable groups. For example, in our case, a mere 24.8% of specialists work in the public sector whilst 75.2% work in the private sector,” he said.

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